Real Man 5: Mr. Limiting (Mark 3:18)

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Real Man #5 Philip, Mr. Limiting

Part 7 Real Men, from Mark 3:18


Men, have you ever had an adventure like this man did?  He writes, “Last weekend I spied something at the pawn shop that tickled my fancy.  I bought something really cool for my wife.  The occasion was our 18th anniversary, and I was looking for a little something extra for my sweet girl.

“What I discovered was a 100,000-volt, purse-sized Taser gun.  For those of you who are not familiar with this product, it is a less-than-lethal stun gun with two metal prongs designed to incapacitate an assailant with a shock of high-voltage, low amperage electricity, while you flee to safety.  The effects are supposed to be short-lived with no long-term, adverse affect on your assailant, but allowing you adequate time to retreat to safety.

“You simply jab the prongs into your 300 lb. tattooed assailant, push the button, and it will render him into a slobbering, goggle-eyed, muscle-twitching, whimpering, pencil-neck geek.  If you’ve never seen one of these things in action, then you’re truly missing out–they are way too cool!

“Long story short, I bought the device and brought it home.  I loaded two AAA batteries in it and pushed the button.  Nothing!  I was so disappointed.  Upon reading the directions (a rare event for me), I found much to my chagrin that this particular model would not create an arc between the prongs.  I was disappointed!  I did learn however, if I pushed the button and pressed it against a metal surface, I’d get the blue arc of electricity darting back and forth between the prongs.  I did so, and it was awesome–sparks, a blue arc of electricity, and a loud, popping sound, the sound of pain and the sound of power.  I’m easily amused, though I have yet to explain to my wife what that burn spot on the face of her microwave is.

“Okay, so I was home alone with this new toy, thinking to myself that it couldn’t be all that bad, using only two AAA batteries.  So as I sat in my recliner, my dog was looking at me as I read the directions, and it got me thinking that I really needed to try this thing out on a flesh and blood target.  I must admit, I thought about zapping the dog for a fraction of a second, and thought better of it.  He is such a sweet pup.  But, if I was going to give this thing to my wife to protect herself against a mugger, I did want some assurance that it would work as advertised.  Was I wrong to think that?  It seemed reasonable to me at the time.

“So, there I sat, in a pair of shorts and a tank top with my glasses perched delicately on the bridge of my nose, directions in one hand, Taser in the other.  The directions said that a one-second burst would shock and disorient your assailant; a two-second burst was supposed to cause muscle spasms and a loss of bodily control; a three-second burst would purportedly make your assailant flop on the ground like a fish out of water.  All the while, I’m looking at this little device measuring about 5″ long, less than 3/4 inch in circumference, and only loaded with two itsy, bitsy, tiny AAA batteries.

“What happened next is almost beyond description.  I’m sitting there alone, the dog looking on with his head cocked to one side as if to say, ‘Don’t do it buddy.’  I am thinking to myself, a one-second burst from such a tiny lil’ ole thing couldn’t hurt all that bad.  So I decided to give myself a one-second burst . . . just for the heck of it.

“I touched the prongs to my naked thigh, pushed the button, and RED SKY, COWS FLY, THOT I DIED; SEA BISCUITS!  I’m pretty sure Hulk Hogan ran in through the front door, picked me up out of that recliner, then body slammed me on the carpet over and over again.  I vaguely recall waking up on my side in the fetal position, my chest hair on fire, my knee caps were nowhere to be found, I was soaking wet, with my left arm tucked under my body in the oddest position.  The dog was standing over me making sounds I’ve never heard before, licking my face, undoubtedly thinking to himself, ‘Do it again, do it again!’

“(SPECIAL NOTE of CAUTION:  If you ever feel compelled to mug yourself with a Taser; remember, there is no such thing as a one-second burst when you zap yourself.  You’re not going to let go of that thing until it is dislodged from your hand by a violent thrashing about on the floor.  Then, IF you’re lucky, you won’t dislodge one of the prongs 1/4″ deep into your thigh like I did.)

“OK, that hurt!  A minute or so later (I can’t be sure, as the universe slowed down at this point), I collected my wits, sat up and surveyed the landscape.  My glasses were on the TV across the room.  How’d they get there?  My triceps, right thigh and chest were still twitching.  My face felt like it had been shot up with Novocain, and my bottom lip weighed 88 lbs. give or take an ounce or two.  And by the way, has anyone seen my knee caps?  I am never touching a Taser again! . . .  WOW!”

Sometimes men are their own worst enemy.  Would you admit that more often than not, we men mainly learn the hard way?  And that was true of our next real man, the apostle Philip.  No matter what he did, it seemed to be wrong.  Yet in the end, he was used of God to turn the world upside down for Christ.  If you are one who seems to learn more from your mistakes, then maybe you’ll be encouraged by Philip.

Open your Bibles to Mark chapter 3, and follow along with the outline in your bulletin as you study the next man in the list of twelve apostles in our study of real men.  Philip has some qualities that you might have, but don’t want.  He is very unique among the twelve disciples.  How many of you are “the glass is half empty” types?  Are any of you “the glass has nothing in it” types?  Or could you be a “the glass will break and render its contents undrinkable” type?  That’s Philip–the one who can see the dark side of any blessing.  In the world of Winnie the Pooh, Philip is Eeyore–thanks for noticing me.

Philip is the leader of the second group of four in the three groups of four that make up the twelve disciples.  He functions in a lesser role, but is mentioned several times in the New Testament.  His name, “Philip”, is a Greek name, meaning lover of horses (and maybe he was a lover of horses–we don’t know), but his Greek name is unusual in that we don’t know his Jewish name.  He must have had a Jewish name–all twelve apostles were Jewish.  But his Jewish name is never given in the New Testament–not once, no clue.

Greek civilization conquered the world under Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, and as a result, the world adopted the Greek language and much of Greek culture and customs.  Greek was so common that the New Testament was written in Greek, so the Bible you have in your laps was written first in Greek.  Then the English was translated from the best of the 25,000 early Greek copies, giving you the NASB.

The Jews who followed Greek customs were called Hellenists, and Philip may have come from a Hellenistic Jewish family.  Remember the apostle Paul–Saul was his Jewish name, but Paul was His Greek name.  Yet with Philip, we only know his Greek name.  So don’t confuse Philip the apostle with Philip the deacon in Acts 6.  The deacon Philip evangelized the Ethiopian eunuch, but he is different than Philip the apostle found in Mark 3.

Look at verses 13ff, “And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. 14 And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, 15 and to have authority to cast out the demons.16 [And He appointed the twelve:] Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), 17 and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”); 18 and Andrew, and Philip.”

Philip was originally from Bethsaida–the same city Peter and Andrew were from, which means they knew each other.  There was only one synagogue per small town, and all God-fearing Jews went to synagogue, so they definitely knew each other.  Most likely they even grew up together. No question, growing up Philip knew of the inner circle four, Peter, Andrew, James and John.  Plus, there’s good biblical evidence that Philip, Nathanael and Thomas were also friends, as all of them were fishermen from Galilee.  After the resurrection when Peter said, “I’m going back to fishing,” a bunch of the disciples joined in and said, “We’re going too!”

In John 21:2-3a, Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together.  John 21:3, “Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’  They said to him, ‘We will also come with you.’  They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.”

The two unnamed disciples here were most likely Andrew and Philip, because they were always in the company of those in this verse.  So at least seven of the twelve disciples all knew each other, as they were all fishermen from the same basic region.  Jesus is amazing–instead of choosing men from all over the world and from all ways of life, He picks mostly from a small group of men who all knew each other as kids, and used those localized fishermen to turn the world upside down with the Gospel.  They were not the most gifted, or talented or qualified, but these average men all had hearts for God.

When looking for leaders, look for men like these.  They were FATS–faithful, available, and teachable servants.  They were PATH–proven, available, teachable with hearts for God.

What do we know about Philip?   Not much from Mark 3–his name is merely listed.  In fact, Matthew, Mark and Luke do not talk about Philip in any detail at all.  But thankfully, the gospel of John does.  In John’s gospel, Philip is often paired with Nathanael, who is also known as Bartholomew–we’ll get to know him next time.  We can assume that Philip and Nathanael were close friends—bros.  Yet Philip is dramatically different than Nathanael and the other ten–in fact Philip is the odd disciple.  He’s very unique!

Picture Philip this way–you know that person who organizes their clothes in their closet by color, or by the day of the week?  The same guy who is concerned about all the facts and figures, a bean counter, by the book, a non-forward thinking guy–he’s the corporate killjoy, the pessimist, a narrow-focused guy, often missing the big picture?  This is the friend who is obsessed with identifying the reasons something can’t be done, rather than finding ways something can be done.  They call themselves pragmatists, but they always seem to come off like cynics, defeatists and vision killers?  That’s Philip.  That’s why I call Philip “Mr. Limiting”.

Prior to the birth of the Church with the coming of the Spirit, Philip could not seem to escape his narrow, negative, limiting ways.  But God saves men like Philip, and some of you here who are just like Philip–and God can use Philips in great ways.  In fact, the best thing that ever happened to limiting Philip was when he met the unlimited Christ.  Turn to John chapter 1.

#1  Unlimited through Christ’s call

God sovereignly calls Philip, and Philip chooses to follow Christ.  The day after Jesus called Andrew, Peter and John, John 1:43 says, “The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip.  And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me.’”

Philip was also with John the Baptist in the wilderness, and before Philip returns to fishing, Jesus sought Philip out and invites Philip to join the other disciples.  This is the first time Jesus physically sought out one of his men, and Philip is the first one to whom Jesus says, “Follow me.”  And of course Philip had a prepared heart and responded by following Christ.  Then who sought out who?  Was it Jesus who sought out Philip, or was it Philip who chose to follow Christ?  Answer:  yes

Jesus makes it clear throughout the Scriptures that before the foundation of the world, He chose those who would be His followers.  Listen to John 15:16, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you.”  Or John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”  And verse 45, “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”  Friends, when are you going to take the “Yeah, but,” out of your Bible reading?  When will you stop saying, “I don’t get this, so it can’t be true,” out of your Bible thinking?  And when will you allow the Bible to describe a God who is beyond you, let God be God—knowable, but incomprehensible?

Look at John 1, our text–John is pointed, John 1:43, “The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip.  And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me.’”  Then verse 45, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”

Jesus found Philip, and Philip says he found Christ.  As far as Philip was concerned, he had found the Messiah rather than being found by Him, which is the classic tension between sovereign election and human choice.  Philip’s call is a perfect example that both exist in perfect harmony.  The Lord found Philip, but Philip felt he found the Lord.  All true from the human perspective, but from a biblical lens we know that God’s choice is the determinative one.  Again, Jesus clearly declares, you did not choose me but I chose you.

From the outset, Jesus actively sought out Philip–He found him, and Jesus invited him to follow Him.  And He found in Philip a willing disciple.  It is obvious that Philip already had a seeking heart, and of course a seeking heart is often evidence God is sovereignly drawing a person.  John 15:16, “You did not choose Me but I chose you.”  John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”  And God had been preparing Philip, already seeking out John the Baptist, searching the Scripture and longing for the Messiah.

Philip’s seeking heart is evident in how he responded to Jesus.  Again look at John 1:45, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”  Philip and Nathanael had been studying the Old Testament–they were seeking the Messiah.  Thats why they went to hear John the Baptist in the first place.  So when Jesus said to Philip, “Follow me”—Philip’s heart was already open and prepared to follow.

And Philip not only had a seeking heart, but he also had an evangelistic heart.  The very first thing he does once Philip meets Christ is to find his friend Nathanael and tell him about the Messiah.  And he is so convinced, so sold, so committed already that no matter how negative Nathanael responds, Philip will not be dissuaded.

Hey Christian, are you convinced yet that friendships provide the most fertile soil for evangelism?  When a genuine Christian, who is one in whom Christ dwells, maintains a relationship of love and trust–a friendship with a non-Christian . . . the effects are powerful.  When someone becomes a true follower of Christ, their first impulse is to find a friend and introduce them to Christ.

John 1:45 to 46, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ 46 Nathanael said to him, ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”  Philip wants to share with his friend Nathanael.  Yet even with Nathanael’s negative attitude about Hemet–oh, I mean Nazareth, it doesn’t stop Philip from, “Hey, come and see–meet Him yourself.”

This event is the high point of Philip’s testimony–the unlimited, sovereign call of God, and Philip responding.  Philip knew the Old Testament promises–he was expectant and prepared, so he received the Lord Jesus unhesitatingly as the Messiah.  There was no reluctance or disbelief.  Philip knew this was the one whom God had sent to provide salvation for those who believe, so he responded by following Christ.

Sadly, in the gospels it’s all downhill from here with Philip.  This event is so out of character with Philip, it demonstrates to us just how powerful God is to transform the most shortsighted, doubting, and limiting type person.  So then how do we see Philip limit the grace of God in his life?  Next turn to John 6.

#2  Limited vision as a bean counter

The gift of administration and Philip’s negative personality limited his faith in John 6 with the feeding of the 5,000.  Here we see what kind of man Philip was in the flesh.  This is where we see Philip as a natural man.  Philip knew the Old Testament, believed in the Messiah, and followed Him without hesitation.  When led by the Spirit, Philip is amazing.  Real men live dependently upon the Holy Spirit 24/7.  But in John 6, Philip’s natural personality shows through, and that is bad–limiting.  Philip is not living by faith, but by the flesh.

There are natural expressions of our personality that are bad–critical, compliant, complaining, biting, intense, demeaning and more.  In John 6, a great crowd sought out Jesus and found Him on a mountainside with His men.  Verse 10 says there were 5,000 men, which means there were 10 to 15 thousand men, women and children.  Matthew’s gospel tells us evening was approaching and the people needed to eat–so now look at John 6:5.  “Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?’”

Why did Jesus single out Philip here?  Because Philip needed this lesson.  Philip’s weaknesses are going to be exposed so Philip can grow.  Verse 6 says, “This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.”  The Lord tests your weaknesses to make you stronger next time.

Plus, apparently Philip was the apostolic administrator.  Judas was in charge of keeping the money, but Philip was charged with spending it–arranging meals and logistics.  Philip coordinated the acquisition and distribution of supplies.  This task fit his personality and gifts.  Whether officially or unofficially, Philip was the one who was concerned with organization and protocol–that means Philip was probably the first one to ever speak the seven deadliest words in the Church . . . “We’ve never done it that way before.”  And its deadly twin sister, “I don‘t think we can do that.”

Philip shows himself to be the master of doubt, and the one who looked through a lens which saw everything as impossible.  So the Lord tests Philip, not to find out what he is thinking–the Lord already knows that.  Jesus is not asking for Philip’s plan here.  The Lord knew what Philip was going to do and what He would do.  Jesus was testing Philip so that Philip would understand himself, see his own sinful bents, and realize his limiting nature.

So Jesus says to Philip, “How do you propose to feed all these people?”  Philip was probably already counting heads, so he answers totally within human limitations.  John 6:7, “Philip answered Him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.’”  A denarii was one full days wage.  One man working 200 days still couldn’t buy enough to give everyone “a bite of bread”.

You can almost hear Philip thinking, can’t you?  One denarii can buy twenty barley biscuits–if we break them in half, then that’s forty for one denarii.  That would make 8,000 half biscuits–so two hundred denarii will buy 8,000 half biscuits–that’s not enough!  “No, it can’t be done, Jesus.”  Philip was analytical and pragmatic–completely materialistic and earthbound.  One of the essential qualities of a spiritual leader is a sense of vision, and of considering the God of the possible doing the impossible.

But Philip knew too much arithmetic to believe.  The raw facts clouded his faith.  He couldn’t see God’s greatness and an opportunity for Christ to be glorified here.  He should have said, “Lord, if you want to feed them, go for it.  I already saw you turn water into wine–you just make the food and we will celebrate your ability and power.  Jesus taught them later in Matthew 17:20,  “’If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.’”

Do you limit God?  Do you put Him in a box?  Do you continually affirm it can’t be done?  Yes, we are to be responsible, work hard, provide, but always with an eye that God can do far beyond our abilities, and even beyond what we can imagine.  My favorite verse for you as a church is Ephesians 3:20 to 21, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”  God can do and will do great things, in and through us and you.  Turn to John 12–Philip didn’t stop with limited vision, he also battled with . . .

#3  Limited ministry from a procedural mindset

Philip misses another opportunity to step out in faith in John 12.  Philip shows his bent toward methods and protocol, which causes him to lack boldness and be apprehensive.  In John 12:20 to 21, “Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; 21 these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’”

These were either God-fearing Gentiles or Hellenistic Jews who were coming to Jerusalem to worship God at the final Passover of Jesus’s earthly ministry–they want to see Christ.  The Greeks probably sought Philip out because of Philip’s Greek name, or they had learned that Philip was the administrator of the group who made all the arrangements.  If Philip lived today, he would have written a manual and followed it by the book.  Their request was not difficult–we want to see Jesus.  But sadly, because of Philip’s protocol mindset, Philip didn’t know what to do.

What do I do about Gentiles or Hellenistic Jews?  They’re not in my protocol procedural manual.  Jesus already said, “Do not go to the Gentiles, but to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 10:5, 15:24), but that didn’t mean Jesus would not speak to these Greeks.  In reality, Jesus was simply identifying the priority of His ministry, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

So the Lord had not set an ironclad rule in place–in fact, the Lord had already ministered to the Samaritan woman and her entire village.  Plus Jesus already taught in John 1:11 to 12, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”  But Philip didn’t respond to guidelines–he wanted black and white.  He liked rigid and unbendable, so Philip didn’t know what to do.

Thankfully Philip had a good heart and decided to go to Andrew, John 12:22, “Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus.”  There is no rule for this, so go to manly Andrew and he can take the blame–or at least he’ll know what to do.  We can safely assume Jesus received the Greeks gladly.  John 6:37 says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”

As the Greeks came to Christ, we don’t know what was said, but we do know Jesus followed up that meeting with these truths.  John 12:23 to 26, “And Jesus answered them, saying, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”

Jesus taught these Greeks the Gospel, and invited them to become His disciples.  But it almost didn’t happen because Philip couldn’t get beyond his limiting protocol bent.  Don’t allow procedure or manmade rules or some idea (just live my witness) to prevent you from speaking the Gospel to those who need Christ.  Tell them about Christ, and never limit what Christ can do.  Now the saddest and most limiting expression Philip ever struggled with was on the day before Jesus went to the cross for our sins.  Turn to John 14, where we will see Philip demonstrating . . .

#4  Limited faith by missing the obvious

Philip missed the main point, the big issue, the obvious truth.  It’s the Last Supper.  The men are in the upper room.  It’s on the eve of the crucifixion, the last night of Christ’s earthly ministry.  The formal training of the twelve has come to an end, and yet we see just how pathetic their faith still was.

Sitting around the table, with no clue about what is about to happen, they’re arguing about who is the greatest, rather than washing the Lord’s feet.  And to make matters worse, Philip is about to utter one of the most heartbreaking statements ever said to Christ.  The Lord’s heart is already heavy–He knows what lies ahead.  Yet Jesus still teaches the twelve about the coming Holy Spirit, warns them about wolves, and seeks to encourage their hearts with the promise of a future in heaven, even promising to return to receive them so that they could be where He was going.

John 14:3 and 4, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going.”  Obviously the where was heaven, and the way was the path Jesus outlines in the gospel.  Jesus constantly taught He was the way.  But they were slow to catch his meaning, so Thomas spoke for the twelve when he said in verse 5, “Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?’”

Jesus pointedly answers them in verse 6 with an absolute declaration that no other faith can lead to heaven–no other path is made for anyone to be forgiven and brought home to heaven.  Don’t you dare believe those loved ones who died without Christ are in a better place–they are not.  For in John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’”

By now, Jesus’s meaning is very clear–He’s going to the Father in Heaven.  And the only way to get to heaven for anyone is exclusively by grace through faith in Christ alone.  Then to be more pointed, Jesus adds an explicit claim of His own deity—He directly affirms He is God in verse 7, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”

This is the clearest possible language declaring that Jesus is God.  Christ and His Father are of the same essence.  To know Christ is to know the Father, because the different persons of the Trinity are one in their very essence.  Jesus is God.  To see Jesus is to see God.  They had all seen Christ and known Christ, so in effect they already knew the Father as well.

It was at this point Philip spoke, revealing a limited faith and making a heartbreaking comment to Christ Himself in John 14:8, “Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’”

Show us the Father?  How could Philip say such a thing, especially after what Jesus just declared about Himself?  How could Philip have missed the point, missed the obvious?  He had witnessed countless miracles, heard God’s Word spoken by God Himself, seen the religious put to shame and demons cast out.  Philip had lived with Christ, day in and day out–how could he say, “Show us the Father?”

With a broken, burdened heart, Jesus replied to Philip in verse 9, “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, “Show us the Father”?’”  How could Philip have missed this–what was Jesus doing for those three-plus years?  How could Philip, who responded in faith to Christ so wonderfully now, not express faith in Christ?

Jesus tells him what is lacking in verses 10 and 11, “’Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.’”  Philip, you’re already in the presence of the living, eternal God Himself–you don’t need any greater proof.  For three-plus years Philip had gazed into the face of God, and seen the mighty works of God demonstrated on a daily basis.  But sadly his earthbound thinking, preoccupation with details, and small-mindedness clouded his eyes from seeing the obvious.  He was slow to trust, weak to understand, and distracted to see.  I would not have picked him as a disciple, but praise the Lord, Jesus did–and the Lord knows best.

Tradition tells us Philip was greatly used to spread the Gospel in the Early Church, and was among the first disciples to be martyred.  Most Church Fathers say Philip was stoned to death in Asia Minor eight years after James died–and thousands came to Christ under his faithful preaching and witness.  If God can use Philip, then God can use you for a great purpose.

#1  It doesn’t matter what you are, the Lord can save you

God can save any kind of person–even me, even you.  Titus 3:3 to 5 tell us what some Christians were before meeting Christ.  “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, . . . 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds . . . , but according to His mercy, . . .”

It doesn’t matter what you are, what you have done–you’re not evil enough, bad enough or hard enough that the Lord can’t save you.  TURN from your sin, TRUST in Christ’s work on the cross, and GIVE Him your life.  He will give you abundant life now and eternal life forever.  And Christian today, RECALL what the Lord saved you from . . . RELIVE what you would’ve been without Christ, and thank Him.

#2  The Lord wants to temper your bents as a Christian

The Lord took a negative, shortsighted, procedural Philip and turned Him into a man Christ used to turn the world upside down.  But the Lord made Philip face his weaknesses–Jesus tested Philip and exposed His bents, sins and disobedience.  The Lord doesn’t make allowances for disobedience, even if it is a part of our personality–and neither should we.

If you are critical, negative, limiting, harsh, angry, like to scream, or you’re overly cooperative, shy, or quiet, or emotional or too loud—do not ever allow that to continue.  Do not accept it.  Do not say that’s just the way I am, or that’s how I do things.  Do not make allowances for your sinful bents–confess them.  Do not make excuses for disobedience in any way–repent of it.  Do not accept anything but the fruit of the Spirit as your goal to glorify God in all things–to be like Christ.

#3  Don’t allow anything to limit your faith in Christ

Do not allow your circumstances, personality or relationships to limit what Christ can do.  Christians are people of hope–we are confident God can change anything, anytime He wishes.  God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, and always as He pleases.

Speaking of salvation, Jesus says in Matthew 19:26, “And looking at them Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”  But speaking of things that seem impossible, maybe you identify with the father of the possessed little boy in Mark 9:22 to 24, “’But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!’ 23 And Jesus said to him, ‘”If You can?” All things are possible to him who believes.’” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.’”

We may struggle believing that God can do abundantly beyond all that we can ask or think, but we can pray, “Lord, help my unbelief.”  To do that, read the Word until it speaks to you, treasure it, and pray through that truth each day.  Write out prayer requests on cards and review them throughout the day, and watch God work.  Then begin to pray for things beyond you, greater than you can imagine or think.  Memorize Ephesians 3:20 and 21, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

Like Abraham, be willing to go where you have never gone

Like Moses, be willing to give up all you possess

Like Joseph, accept being treated harshly for God’s purposes

Like Hannah, be willing to give up your children to God’s glory

Like Philip, be willing to serve in ways beyond your giftedness and bents, being a vessel for God to use for His glory

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.